In his ruling this week in Hasbrouck v. CBP, Judge Seeborg of the US. District Court for the Northern District of California suggested that US citizens have no “rights” that would be prejudiced by applying newly-issued Privacy Act exemption rules to previously-made requests for government records.
But a parallel case currently before the U.S. District Court in DC shows how retroactive application of Privacy Act exemptions can be a potentially life-or-death issue.
Sharif Mobley is a native-born U.S. citizen who was living in Yemen with his wife (also a US citizen) and their two infant children when he was shot and seized by agents of the Yemeni government in January 2010, and taken to a Yemeni hospital in police custody. He’s been in a Yemeni prison ever since, and needs US government records to defend himself against capital charges.